Isaiah 9:4 talks about the coming Messiah and how he will break the yoke of our burden. This past Sunday I gave a message on this passage, along with verse 6, and it really has stuck with me beyond Sunday. Maybe all pulpiteers have their sermons continually run through their minds after they deliver them, but that usually isn’t the case with me.
I presented the idea that most world religions and even some Christians view life as if God were on top of the tallest, steepest mountain and we are the bottom. We do things to try to reach God, work our way up to God, elevate ourselves, etc. (This is not an original idea to me.) So the idea that we’re trying to reach God, that we are striving and working, evokes the image of a burden or a load. The same image I think of a team of oxen being yoked to a plough or a load – one of work and exhaustion. The yoke and burden then, are our natures that are tainted by our sinful natures that we are born into, being in a fallen world, pulling us down the mountain; keeping us tied down to the bottom of the mountain.
Because of this burden attached to our yokes that are harnessed to us, we never can reach God. We can never live up. We have to live in compromise and make rationalizations like “I tried my darnedest to get as high up that mountain and I think I did pretty good. Better than Bob over there, he’s a good 4 arm-lengths behind me on the mountain.” We make it a competition because none of us are reaching the top. We get frustrated and tired because no matter what we do, it doesn’t seem like enough. We mimic others who act like they’re on the top. We attempt to make ourselves righteous through hard work – also known as self-righteousness – and deep down we know that our efforts don’t meet the standard because they’re like filthy rags.
Christianity is the only religion where God comes down the mountain and extends His hand to you in the person of Jesus Christ. The yoke of the burden is broken and shattered because God has done the work for you, by coming down and rescuing you. When you accept Christ and place all your faith in Him as your Salvation (because Salvation is a person, not a “thing”), you step into HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS and are joined with Him. Your identity is in Him, you change your name to Christian to demonstrate so. He ascended to the right hand of the Father so you are now supernaturally next to the Father, in Him, at the top of the mountain. His Spirit has also come down and supernaturally has His presence in you!
So the work has been done! There’s no need to keep trying to go up this steep, slippery mountain to reach God, because God has come to reach you. He not only reaches you, he changes – no transforms – you by placing His very nature in you. His mind, His heart, His very traits are now inside of you! Sure you’ll change the way things happen on the outside, but it’s a flow from has happened on the inside.
But so many times, we put the yoke back on. We look at other people and want to “be good” so we slap our own hands and modify our behavior to mimic the external we see in others. It’s a burden to perform. It’s a burden to prove our own righteousness. It’s a burden to wear the yoke of work. If that were the reality of God and being a Christian, if you could get to the top on your own, why did Jesus come at all? If there was any other way, why did God come and die?
I ended my message with this, and this is what really has been sticking in my head: Where do you place your hope? Is it in a yoke you bear or in the One that bore a cross for you?